You’re from where!?

The Argentinean and the Welshman

I never thought my ethnicity, skin colour, citizenship, religion or even my accent were crucial until I moved to Dallas, Texas.

Back home in Argentina -or at least in my social circle- we were all third or fourth generation Argentinians of mainly Italian or Spanish descent (which accounts for our ethnicity, I guess,) Catholic (at least in name,) and spoke with the same accent (that of Buenos Aires.)

When I was little, meeting people from other provinces with a different accent or with a different religion  was exciting because it felt like discovering a whole new world. Let alone meeting a foreigner!

Back to the present. Now I live in a foreign country, have a foreign accent, have a citizenship that is different to that of most people and my skin colour has acquired some kind of (sick) relevance in the eyes of others.

Here’s a list of the most common replies I’ve got when I say I’m from Argentina (in no particular order, although the blank stare is probably the most popular.)

  • … (blank stare. Many people have absolutely no clue where or what Argentina is. Europe? Africa? A country? A city? I’m not kidding!)
  • Really? But you’re … (and touch their face as if saying “but you’re white!”)
  • Ya’ll go confusing people with your skin tone (again, the a-Latin-American-person-can’t-be-white theme.)
  • No! You can’t be! But you’re O’Reilly! (by marriage, you dumb-ass)
  • No! – Yes, I am – No! – Yes, I am – But then you must be a Nazi! (again, a clear example of prejudice. By the way, this reference to the Nazi stems from the fact that many a Nazi commander took refuge in my country after the war with the help of President Peron and his wife Evita. In exchange of gold. Lots of it. Not one of our proudest moments as a country .)
  • Oh, that’s interesting. (Interesting!!?? Why?) Isn’t Argentina the only white Latin American country? (Huh?? who cares?)
  • Do you eat tacos and burritos too? (Noooooo, that’s mainly Mexico)
  • Oh, I see. Do you speak Spanish? (What else???)
  • Really? I thought you were European/Spanish/French/German/Russian (at least two people have said I speak English with a slight Russian accent. Now that is funny.)

Lately, I’ve started to reply I’m from South America, which is vaguer but nonetheless true. It saves me a lot of explaining.

I sometimes felt discriminated, looked down on, but I realised some people are just ignorant or have misconceptions about countries that lie south of the Rio Grande. Mind you, my hubby is from Wales and some of the comments people made were really funny too:

  • Oh, is that a country? (no comment)
  • I was in Australia once and loved it (He confused  New South Wales with the “old” Wales in the UK)

In a weird sort of way, this makes me feel better.

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Published by

Ana

Hi, I'm Ana. I'm originally from Argentina but I'm currently living in Dallas (USA) with my British husband. I'd like to share my experiences as an expat and as a traveller.

27 thoughts on “You’re from where!?”

  1. ¡Me encanta! Acá solía tener el mismo tipo de conversaciones hace unos 20 años, pero ahora ya han visto “tanto mundo” que nada les sorprende. Los más gracioso que me dijeron es que si en Cuba hace calor, en Argentina seguro que hace aún más calor porque está más al sur… digamos que del Polo Sur no tenían ni noticia. ¡Gracias y hasta le próxima!

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    1. Gracias! Es que al Polo Norte lo tienen mas cerca! Aca hay de todo, pero me parece que como lo unico que conocen de Latinoamerica es Mexico, la mayoria cree que de la frontera para abajo somos todos iguales a ellos en todo.

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  2. Haha! Good one! I was once asked if I had ever been to Europe…. and that was after a 10 minute conversation about how I am from Germany 🙂

    And… my boyfriend received a very blank stare from a girl whom he told that he was from Rome… the blank stare was followed by “Do people still live there???” I guess after the Roman Empire fell, there was not much time left in her history class.

    But, don’t get me wrong. Some of my fellow Germans have asked me dumb questions as well since I moved to Texas. A good one was “Do people ride their horses to school?” and another one was “So, do you speak Spanish now?” (because Texas = Mexico…. Duh!).

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    1. That is funny! Of course people from every country have misconceptions about the rest of the world: back home, if you have slant eyes, people will call you Chinese no matter where you’re originally from (Japan, Vietnam, etc).

      I just wanted to share my experiences and from the comments from readers, many are shared!

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  3. 🙂
    I think that, a) indeed, many people have no idea where Argentina is or what “kind” of people live there; b) those that do know vaguely, they think that Argentina and, for example, Mexico, are neighbour countries, so we speak the same way, we eat the same things and we listen to the same kind of music! (have you ever taken a look at a map?)

    So far the winning remark I’ve had here in NL was: “oh, from Argentina? Then you speak…….. (engine searching…… ) Latin?”

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  4. It sucks. Sometimes it’s easier than others to laugh at these things. I’ve had good days and bad ones. I lived in England (as an American passport holder) through the Bush years and some of the things people said to me affected me very deeply. Comments like, “but you’re not a real American, you’re not fat/ stupid/ racist/loud/etc. ” or the opposite, that I must be fat/stupid/racist/loud/a warmonger/etc., and someone even asked me once if I had a gun. I was shocked because I really thought he was joking and he wasn’t. I’ve never even met anyone who had a gun (although I saw one once in England). With my other nationality as a New Zealander, I get different things like the “what language do you speak there?” question and, “Isn’t that part of Australia?” and when I lived in Asia people often asked me why I had black hair (actually it’s dark brown) when I’m not Asian. Well, let’s see, my mum had it, my grandparents had it…uh. People seem to want to believe the stereotypes so badly sometimes that they will just look and look until they find something that can make them feel at ease again. It’s a good thing we have Pocketcultures now, eh? 🙂

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  5. El otro día leía un comentario de una ex-compañera del I.A.G. (instituto argentino de gastronomía) contando que un norteamericano le preguntó de donde era, ella dijo “Argentina” y le dijo “No sabía que allá las mujeres eran rubias de ojos celestes”… Dato anecdótico: Es morocha y tiene ojos marrones oscuros.

    No solo no somos un país muy conocido, sino que además, borrachos, los hombres ven muy mal! jejejej

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  6. “No! You can’t be! But you’re O’Reilly! (by marriage, you dumb-ass)” – haha, LOVE it!

    Being from Australia, people often think I’m from Austria and even when they do know about Oz they throw a million clichéd lines at me, asking how i can be blonde and not surf or have a tan …pfff. then there’s the whole pet kangaroo thing and Italian sounding Irish surname 🙂

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    1. Maybe they think Austria is short for Australia?
      I bet “Hi mate” is one of those cliches 🙂 or “how can you eat Vegemite”? haha! (I still need to compare it with Marmite)
      Thanks for stopping by, Rebbecca.

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    1. Hi Neha, thanks for visiting.
      Unfortunately that’s true, but I’ve come across extremely nice and caring people too that make up for the nasty ones.

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  7. I agree that the level of ignorance about Argentina is quite high. I recall a conversation with a representative from Verizon to discuss the possibility of using my U.S. cell phone while traveling in Argentina. Her response: “That’s in Europe, right?”

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  8. Hey Ana
    I really enjoyed reading this. The responses to you being a white Argentinian are hilarious, yet so ignorant! As a British born Aussie who has travelled quite a bit, I’m aware of much of the unfortunate ignorance and racism in the world although I haven’t really worn the brunt of it. In January we’ll be ‘whities’ living in Vietnam and we’ve already thought about what we may encounter in the way of predjudice. I found Marie’s comments above really interesting about being an American living in the UK during the Bush years. We were bombarded here in Oz with dreadful stereotypes of Americans thanks to Bush and his idiocy so I’m not surprised that other nationalities had these thoughts about all Americans (only the dumb ones obviously!) In 1995 I was in Scotland and had to listen to an angry old Scotsman rant on about the stolen statues from a local castle and he was adamant that ‘it must have been those Brits who would have the statues across the border by now!’ This was hilarious but at the time I wasn’t going to admit to being a Brit myself – being an Aussie was just fine then! Actually he owned the B&B we stayed at and I’m sure he wouldn’t have taken us in if he’d thought we were British! There’s an old saying from Yorkshire (UK) ‘there’s nowt so queer as folk’ and it’s so true. Never mind, we will happily travel on…………….

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    1. Hi Tina

      Thanks for stopping by. I agree that the combination of ignorance and stereotyping can be dreadful. I’m interested to know whether you’ll encounter these in Vietnam too.

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  9. I used to work in a Greek restaurant and at least once a night I got the “So, what part of Greece are you from?” question.
    Here are some of the reactions when my answer was “Oh, I’m not greek”:
    -“But, isn’t this YOUR FAMILY’S restaurant?” (every restaurant that you go to employs their family? Do you think Mc Donalds workers are all Ronald Mc Donald’s children?)
    – (completely ignoring my answer) “Oh we love Greece! We’ve been to Mykonos in the 80’s, is that where you are from?”
    – “Huh?” “Do you serve fries here?”
    -“Then you must be Italian”
    -“You really look greek, your nose…” (EXCUSE ME ? )
    And my favourite, from a Texan : -“But…you’re BROWN” (funny, because I’m of german and spanish descent and my skin is extremely sensitive, I have rosacea and can’t get a tan if my life depended on it)
    After 6 months of work, I decided to tell everyone I was Greek and my name was Sofia…until some greek couple started speaking greek to me and I had to admit I was lying. They loved my story about how I started lying out of tiredness.
    Surprisignly enough, in Canada when I say I’m from Argentina, I often get very accurate remarks on my country’s culture (from the classic “you guys love soccer!” and “great wine there”, to the incredibly specific “I’ve been looking on the market to buy some property in Bariloche, it really doesn’t get below minus 25 there eh? Can you see the Southern Lights from there or is it too far from the antartic circle?”), and I guess it might be due to the fact that Canadian people are SO used to being stereotyped (and confused with americans) that they’re kind enough to acknowledge the differences between the different countries in America. Also, winters are so fucking cold that people tend to travel down south a great deal for the winter holidays, and I’ve known so many Canadians that have been to Thailand that it constitutes an internal joke now.
    Anyhoot, I’m pretty sure no one’s exempt of having some sort of preconception at some point in our lives (not only cultural but also occupation related, religious and even sexist), but the extreme racial tension and sensitivity existing in North America its undeniable and unconcealed, needless to say worrying .

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    1. You know what? I spent almost a year in Canada and I agree with you, Canadians seem to know more about us than Americans do. And I definitely agree with your last statement: racial tension is almost palpable, at least in Texas.
      By the way, your Greek restaurant stories are way too funny. Thanks for stopping by.

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